Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Iraqis again fail to reach accord

BAGHDAD -- Shi'ite and Kurdish politicians beat a midnight deadline yesterday and submitted a draft constitution to Iraq's National Assembly, but lawmakers postponed voting on the document for three days in a final bid to gain the support of skeptical Sunni Arab leaders.

After months of negotiations and a one-week extension, lawmakers had been expected to either approve a draft constitution by yesterday, officially endorse another delay, or scrap the whole process and start over with new elections. Instead, visibly tired politicians muddled through to a half-resolution, presenting a document that left several key issues unsettled.

People who have viewed the document said it includes vague language weakening Iraq's strong central government, enshrining a federalist system, and addressing how oil revenue is to be split between Baghdad and the provinces.

Sunni Arab members of the drafting committee quickly rejected the Shi'ite-Kurd text, loudly denounced the process, and threatened to work against the document if the assembly endorses the current version and submits it to the public in an October referendum.

''This constitution is full of mines that are going to explode," Salah Mutlak, one of 15 Sunnis on the charter panel, said. ''The articles stipulated in this constitution will have grave consequences if they are submitted to a referendum. This constitution will lead to a weak Iraq that is unable to defend itself."

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